Skip to content

Teaching Tarlton: where to go from here

2012 March 11

As I read Katherine Harris’s blog post on Acknowledgements on Syllabi - especially her description of “re-mixing and re-using” a Frankenstein assignment – it occurred to me that I had left one piece out of the Tarlton’s Jests collaborative digital edition project last fall (/*facepalm*/). As I describe in previous posts on this blog and my general work site I focused on each student’s individual contribution to the edition by having them each create their own wiki page (or pages) for their introduction, transcriptions and contextual essay. What I should have done was take it one step further: have them all compile their individual transcriptions into one master wiki page (or three, broken down by category). This would have required one extra round of refinement on their parts – considering how well all of their decisions about spelling and punctuation worked as a collaborative document and reestablishing the idea of the individual jests as part of a larger publication.

Without that final piece, I did not reinforce the idea that an edition is not always a singular endeavor, crafted by one scholar, but is more increasingly (especially in evolving online editions) the result of contributions of several editors who combine their pieces to present a coherent master work. It might have taken another week to finalize this component of the group assignment, but it would have forced students across the three sections to find more and better ways to communicate and collaborate through digital means. It might also have developed the idea of an editorial board, tasked with making decision decisions about style and format for the entire group.

Kathy talks in her post about how learning from the failures of others can prevent you from having to “beta-test”  what could otherwise be a “massive failure.” I’m not suggesting that the Tarlton’s Jests was a failure; this instance of my tendency to engage in bungie-jump teaching worked pretty well. But if anyone else is considering undertaking such an assignment, I would suggest that you consider putting that final stamp on it.

My thinking on this front is being influenced by the work being done at Devonshire Manuscript project out of ETCL at the University of Victoria.  The wikibooks edition of the miscellany is exploring such questions about the nature of scholarly collaborative writing in a wiki-based forum. In hindsight, the way in which the ETCL team is addressing a large project through focus on team-editing can be applied to a much smaller, classroom-based project.

If I assign the Tarlton’s Jests project again, or develop another collaborative digital edition assignment based on some other early modern text, I will make sure that this final component is part of the assignment design. I’m taking Kathy’s advice about re-mixing and re-using to heart. I’ll formally acknowledge and use as models such projects and assignments that are informing my approach to this type of student collaboration.

And now I have the final piece of reflection for my RSA presentation next week!

Leave a Reply

Note: You may use basic HTML in your comments. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS